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As we drove past the huge white gates at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas, we weren’t sure what to expect. The last time we were here was in June of last year when the state of Texas raided the FLDS property and took 462 children and placed them in state custody. Allegations of child brides, sex with minors, and abuse put a spotlight on the FLDS and what was going on inside this ranch. We were allowed in to speak with mothers who were pleading for their children to be returned. It was our first look inside this secretive religion which practices polygamy.
Today we were invited again. We were given a guided tour by one of the church leaders Willie Jessop. He says life here on the ranch is much different that what many people believe. He allowed us to meet and speak with mothers and children who say they were taken from the ranch last year before being returned.
At first, the ranch seemed desolate and the same as it was the last time we visited. As we took our tour we saw more work had been done in fields of crops they say were ruined during the raid. As time passed we began to see women and children outside their homes working and playing in front of their homes.
We came across children who were picking carrots and doing other work around the ranch. All say they are more than thrilled to have been returned to their families and the life they know. Some say that being away from their home and their life as they knew it only strengthened their faith.
Outside the ranch in the Schleicher County courthouse, 10 FLDS men were present today for pretrial motions on their cases involving sexual assault of a minor and other various charges related to underage marriage and bigamy. Their trial dates are scheduled for the fall.
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